Epsom Oaks

The Oaks

Inaugurated in 1779, Epsom Oaks or the Oaks Stakes is the most prestigious flat race in the United Kingdom for three-year-old fillies. Each filly carries a weight of nine stones or 126 lbs. They run a distance of one mile and four furlongs every June at the Epsom Downs Racecourse.

The race is more popularly known as The Oaks. It was named after the Carshalton estate of the Earl of Derby, which was known as The Oaks, near Epsom Downs in England. As of 2007, the Epsom Oaks offered a top prize of 375,000.

Legend has it that the Epsom Oaks began as a result of a friendly dinner party wager between the Earl and his friends, all of them owners of fillies. The Earl must have known something that the others didn't because his filly, Bridget, won the inaugural staging of the race in May 1779. The race has since been known as Epsom Oaks.

Since then, the Epsom Oaks has been drawing the best fillies from all over the United Kingdom and elsewhere, not only from royalty. However, interestingly, given the race's royal roots, it is only fitting that another member of the royalty holds the record for most successful owner in Epsom Oaks. That's George FitzRoy, the 4th Duke of Grafton, whose fillies have won the Oaks Stakes six times.

Other notable names in the Epsom Oaks record book are Frank Buckle, the winningest jockey in Oaks history with nine victories, and Robert Robson, the winningest trainer in history with an amazing 12 victories.

The two most impressive records for fillies are held by Intrepidity and Sun Princess. Intrepidity holds the record for the fastest race after completing the Oaks in two minutes, 34.19 seconds in 1993. Sun Princess ran the most dominant race in Oaks history with a winning margin of 12 lengths in 1983.

Meanwhile, the Epsom Oaks has also seen its share of longshots winning the race, particularly in 1833 and 1991 when two 50/1 underdogs, Vespa and Jet Ski Lady, crossed the finish line first.

The record for most runners was set in 1848 when 26 fillies joined the Epsom Oaks, while the least number of runners (4) occurred in 1799 and 1904.

One of the most amazing races occurred in 1876 when two horses -- Camelia and Engeurrande -- crossed the finish line in a dead heat for a tie.

Two winning fillies were disqualified from the race for various offences. In 1918, Stony Ford was deemed to have caused interference to My Dear and was subsequently disqualified. In 1989, Aliysa tested positive for an illegal substance and was also disqualified.

Amazingly, despite spanning over 200 years and encompassing two World Wars, the Epsom Oaks has never missed a staging. On the other hand, the shortest odds winner to ever win the Oaks was Pretty Polly, an 8/100 favorite when she won in 1904.